Marella Explorer 2 Exits Drydock with New Livery

Marella Explorer 2

The Marella Explorer 2 is fresh out of the drydock in Cadiz with her new Marella Cruises livery painted on the 1995-built ship’s hull.

The ship is the sixth vessel in Marella’s fleet and debuts this April for the TUI-owned British brand.

After starting her career as the Celebrity Century, the vessel moved to China for startup SkySea Cruises and is now under the Marella banner.

Royal Caribbean and Ctrip to Kill SkySea Brand

SkySea Golden Era

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Ctrip announced that they are ending the SkySea Cruise Line joint venture, which has carried well over 200,000 Chinese passengers since launching service in 2015.

The two companies had formed the joint venture in 2014 and installed a new management team early last year, led by Ken Muskat, CEO.

Despite a number of positive major changes for the brand, including an early deployment announcement last August, the joint venture will come to an end later this year.

The news comes on the heels of a number of changes in the Chinese cruise market that has capacity moving downward in 2018 and 2019, according to the 2018-2019 Cruise Industry News Annual Report. It’s also in stark contrast to once bullish growth plans for SkySea.

TUI AG’s Marella Cruises has agreed to purchase Golden Era, with delivery expected in December 2018, according to Royal Caribbean.

After the sale of Golden Era, it is expected that SkySea will wind down its business operations before the end of 2018. The companies expect that favourable business conditions in China and elsewhere will allow them to absorb most SkySea employees into available positions at Royal Caribbean and China.

Through its Royal Caribbean International brand, Royal Caribbean will continue to serve the Chinese market, with the largest fleet deployment in the region and a strong collaborative relationship with Ctrip, the company said.

Marella Cruises aims to attract younger passengers with new adult-only ship

Golden Era (Ex-Celebrity Century)

Marella Cruises has revealed its Explorer 2 ship will be adult-only when it launches in May 2019.

The line also said it would become an all-inclusive fleet, offer 11 new itineraries and seven ports of call from next summer.

The decision to go all inclusive is expected to appeal to passengers who are new to cruise and younger, Marella said.

Marella Explorer 2 will enter the fleet as a result of the ending of a Chinese joint venture between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Chinese travel firm Ctrip.

The vessel Golden Era earmarked for SkySea Cruise Line for the Chinese market will instead be bought by the Tui-owned UK line.

The ship will launch as Marella Explorer 2 in 2019 following an extensive renovation.

This will enable Tui Cruises in Germany to retain Mein Schiff 2 which had been destined to be sold to sister brand Marella.

Both Golden Era and Mein Schiff 2 are former Celebrity Cruises’ Century-class ships.

Golden Era was previously Celebrity Century, which entered service in 1995 with a capacity for 1,814 passengers, while Mein Schiff 2 formerly operated as Celebrity Mercury, entering service in 1997 and capable of carrying 1,912 passengers.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) is a half owner of Tui Cruises but is dissolving a 36% shareholding with Ctrip in SkySea Cruises.

SkySea Cruise Line began operations in May 2015 and established two home ports in Shanghai and Xiamen.

Tui Cruises announced last month plans to expand its fleet to serve the German market with an additional new build vessel for delivery in 2023. Tui Group’s overall cruise ship fleet will grow to 18 vessels by then.

Sebastian Ebel, the member of Tui Group’s executive board in charge of cruises, said: “We will continue to invest in our cruise portfolio and expand, modernise and rejuvenate our fleet. With these decisions, we increase the offer at Tui Cruises and accelerate the expansion of this growing segment.“

Marella Explorer 2 will feature new cabin types, including the 102 metres squared Royal Suite where occupants will be able to use a separate bedroom, dressing room, dining area and a whirlpool bath.

Forty percent of the 907 cabins will have balconies.

Marella said the popularity of adult-only sailings from Dubrovnik and the Asia itineraries for winter 2018 prompted the decision to offer an adult-only ship.

Marella Explorer 2 will be the first ship to be exclusively for adults in the fleet.

The vessel will be tailored to meet the needs of couples and groups by doubling the size of its sunbathing area, called The Veranda, featured on the Marella Explorer.

The Veranda on Marella Explorer 2 will feature new facilities, the line said.

Marella Cruises will also offer 11 new itineraries, such as Cities and Ice, Idyllic Italia and Secrets of the Mediterranean, and seven new ports of call next summer across its fleet.

Skagen in Denmark, Castellon in Spain, Alta in Norway and Margherita in Italy will all be included in Marella itineraries for the first time.

Chris Hackney, Marella Cruises’ managing director, said: “We continue to look at ways to offer something different to our current customers who have come to enjoy our ships and friendly service onboard and those who may be thinking about booking a cruise for the first time.”

The summer 2019 programme will go on sale on April 5.

The planned transfer of Mein Schiff 1 to Marella Cruises as Marella Explorer in May is unaffected, with the UK line also introducing its 2019 itineraries on April 5.

The vessel previously operated as Celebrity Galaxy as a sister ship to Century and Mercury, first entering service at the end of 1996.

The US cruise giant said: “Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd and Ctrip announced today that they are ending the SkySea Cruise Line joint venture.

“Tui AG’s Marella Cruises has agreed to purchase Golden Era, with delivery expected in December 2018.

“As a result of this transaction, Tui Cruises will now retain Mein Schiff 2 in its fleet, rather than selling it to Marella Cruises, giving Tui Cruises increased capacity in the strong German market.

“After the sale of Golden Era, it is expected that SkySea will wind down its business operations before the end of 2018.

“The companies expect that favourable business conditions in China and elsewhere will allow them to absorb most SkySea employees into available positions at RCL and Ctrip.

“Through its Royal Caribbean International brand, RCL will continue to serve the Chinese market, with the largest fleet deployment in the region and a strong collaborative relationship with Ctrip.”

Royal Caribbean expects the impact of the transactions to fall in a range of $0.12 to $0.15 a share this year. The loss will be excluded from 2018 adjusted net income, the company said.